Witnesses, court received threats during Daniel Pearl's murder case, counsel tells SC

Published January 12, 2021
Daniel Pearl, 38, was beheaded in 2002. — Dawn archives
Daniel Pearl, 38, was beheaded in 2002. — Dawn archives

The trial court that heard American journalist Daniel Pearl's murder case and its witnesses had received threats, the legal counsel of the journalist's parents told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Musheer Alam was hearing an appeal filed last year by the Sindh government and Pearl's parents against a Sindh High Court decision to acquit the main suspect in the case, Omar Saeed Sheikh, and three others. During today's hearing, the legal counsel of Pearl's parents, Faisal Siddiqui, said that the case was shifted from Karachi to Hyderabad due to threats.

Siddiqui also argued that terrorism cases were filed on the basis of "confessional statements". He urged the court to "create a balance between the basic rights of the petitioner and the accused".

Omar's legal representative Mehmood Sheikh, in his arguments, labelled the case as "false and a result of pressure". He said that the United States had sent Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents to assist the murder investigation and added: "No country sends its investigative institutions after its ordinary citizens."

Speaking about the legal process that led to Omar's sentencing, Mehmood said the witnesses produced by the prosecution "gave contradictory statements during the investigation and [in] court".

"Daniel Pearl was an American citizen, that's why evidence was planted," the lawyer added.

Mehmood said that in the case, it was stated that the "murder conspiracy" was hatched in a hotel in Rawalpindi. However, the hotel's receptionist had said that he did not know Omar Sheikh, Mehmood said, adding that "confessional statements were extracted from the suspects through torture."

The counsel also argued that there was no evidence of any meeting between the suspects.

The case was adjourned until Wednesday (tomorrow).

Daniel Pearl, 38, was doing research on religious extremism in Karachi when he was abducted in January 2002. A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate a month later. Subsequently, Omar was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by a trial court.

In its April 2, 2020, order, the SHC had overturned the conviction of Omar Sheikh for killing the South Asia bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal. The SHC had also acquitted three other men namely Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib, who had been earlier sentenced to life imprisonment by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Karachi.

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